12 Days Of Christmas

1. Hitting the right note- Carol singing is as much a part of our festive season as turkey and crackers. It’s hard to beat Trafalgar Square, with a 20m-high spruce donated by the City of Oslo ever since 1947. The tree is lit up from 2 Dec, and then the fun really starts with different groups of carol singers every evening from 5pm-9pm from 7 Dec.

2. At your service- Why not attend a Christmas service? All are welcome at the spectacular St. Paul’s Cathedral for Midnight Eucharist (24 Dec), and music and readings (27 & 28 Dec, 5pm) to get your spiritual kicks. Or head to St. Martin-In-The-Fields for their peaceful advent services (19 Dec).

3. Out and about- Over indulged? Work off some of that excess with some fantastic alfresco activities. At Hyde Park take a guided walk, Christmas Through the Ages (9 & 10 Dec) to discover seasonal folklore and how our Royal Parks have been so important in entertaining Londoners through dark winter days. Hampstead Heath is made for an exhilarating ramble, and from the top of Parliament Hill, London’s panorama unfolds in all its glory.

4. Piece of history- Take a step back a few centuries to see how Londoners enjoyed the festive season. At Hampton Court Palace join the Tudor Christmas (from 27 Dec) with lutes galore and historic Tudor cuisine prepared in the original kitchens. And over at the Tower Of London join the court of King Edward I as fools and entertainers perform for the Merry Medieval Christmas (27-31 Dec).

5.Entertainment galore-
In addition to pantos, special events fill our stages this month. The Night Before Christmas sees Santa and his elves getting ready to bring seasonal joy, while the Sugar Plum Fairy meets with Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score for English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker at London Coliseum.

6. Escape the chills- Warm yourself up by the fireplace at one of London’s cosy, historic pubs and enjoy a foaming pint of British beer and maybe a bite to eat. Grand Victorian public house The Princess Louise (208 High Holborn, WC2), is a particular favourite.

7. Skate the night away- London boasts some of the best open-air rinks in the world. Set against iconic battlements, The Tower of London Ice Rink offers an unforgettable location. Equally as atmospheric is the latenight, torch-lit skating at Somerset House and Eyeskate at The London Eye.

8. Seek out Santa- Santa is working tirelessly this Christmas to ensure he gets to see as many children as possible. Climb aboard the Santa Express at Selfridges (until 24 Dec) for a train ride through a winter wonderland. Revel in a Victorian Christmas at the Museum of London Docklands or see the darker side of Santa (or should I say Satan!) at London Dungeon.

9. Christmas Markets- Nothing quite gets us in the mood as a traditional Christmas Market. The Cologne Christmas Market on the South Bank promises German-style gifts and food, while Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a spectacular event with a variety of stalls.

10. Traditional lunch? Try Christmas lunch with a difference at one of London’s diverse restaurants. Trishna is offering an exotic Turkey Tikka, the ever-wonderful El Pirata and El Pirata Detapas boasts a Christmas tapas menu featuring bite-sized creations, while Bateaux London’s Christmas lunch cruise lets you see the sights from a different perspective.

11. See the lights- During the festive period, London is lit up with wonderful Christmas lights. Take a stroll down any of London’s major shopping thoroughfares, from the eye-catching space-age theme on Carnaby Street to the the Narnia-inspired lights on Regent Street, to see the city at its most glittering and magical.

12. Only in London? We Londoners enjoy quirky events that are pretty much unique. Cheer on the fancy-dress teams in the Great Christmas Pudding Race, carrying a pud through the square with hilarious results (4 Dec, 11am start). The hardy members of the Serpentine Swimming Club dip into the icy waters for the Peter Pan Christmas Day Race, a tradition since 1864 (25 Dec, 9am).